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The great thing about sports rivalries is you can truly throw out the standings when certain teams meet.
Such was the case over the past seven days in both Capital District boys and girls basketball involving Hanover, Atlee and Lee-Davis. The week was filled with clutch performances, big comebacks, last-second shots, and even an overtime.
Shining brightest was the Atlee girls team, who celebrated Senior Night Thursday breaking open a close game to defeat Hanover. The Raiders went on a 30-1 run over a six-minute span of the third and fourth quarters to seal a 60-47 win. Cierra Shelton led the Raiders with 22 points, while Ashley Weaver added 14 and senior Stephanie Staples led the home court for the final time in style with 13 points.
There was no defining run when the Raiders traveled to Lee-Davis Tuesday night. The Confederates would scrap, claw, and fight their way through the game, forcing a memorable final two minutes.
The Raiders forced three quick steals in 90 seconds to begin the game and held a 9-8 edge after one, 29-24 at halftime. When the Raiders upped the lead to 10 at 47-37, the game seemed well in hand. Back came Lee-Davis, going on a 9-0 run to start the final period. Staples would score four points after an Atlee timeout to quell the rally, but the Confederates fought back, with back-to-back three-pointers by Kerstin Winston and Lauren McIntyre helping to tie the game at 54. Staples drew a foul and made one free throw to give the Raiders a 55-54 lead with two minutes to play.
Imani Boothe drove for two to give Lee-Davis the lead. Ten seconds later, a basket from Shelton gave Atlee the edge again, this time for good. Ashley Weaver stole the ball from Lee-Davis with 25 seconds left and scored for a 59-56 final. Lee-Davis had a chance for a tying three-pointer at the buzzer, but couldn’t get a shot off in time.
“That was too close!” exclaimed Atlee head coach LaTanya Collins courtside after the game, her face overflowing with relief.
The Raiders (5-6 in Capital District play, 9-8 overall) were led by Staples with 15, but Shelby Hill had 11 key points to aid Atlee. The Confederates (2-10, 5-14) had four players in double figures, including 13 from Olivia Tuck, 11 from McIntyre, and 10 each from Boothe and inside force Kori Hughes, who added 17 rebounds just a week after breaking the school record for rebounds in a game with 22.
The Atlee boys felt the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Thursday at home, against favored Hanover, they positioned themselves for a win after being down by as many as nine points in the second half. The Raiders scored the first five points of the fourth quarter, later cutting the Hawks’ lead to a point on a free throw from Brian Miller, who scored 18. When Quincy Randolph nailed a trey with 3:09 left, the Raiders finally led at 63-61.
The Hawks responded with a 6-0 run of their own, but Rashaun Winters put the Raiders on his back, scoring to cut the lead to 67-65, then stealing the ball and feeding Miller, who scored to tie the game. On both plays, however, Atlee was fouled. On both occasions, Winters and Miller missed their free throw. Hanover could have been down two, and knew they were lucky to be tied.
Freshman Jalen Elliott calmly took control, drawing an Atlee foul and sinking one of two free throws for a 68-67 lead with 21.7 seconds left. A Raider possession ended in a held ball, and with the possession arrow favoring the Green, Hanover took possession with 12.7 seconds left. On the ensuing play, a collision occurred between three players going after the ball. When the whistle blew with 8.2 seconds left, it was not for any foul, but for another held ball. Atlee had the ball, but their sophomore guard Brett Ayer was writhing in pain at mid-court.
After a pause, Atlee inbounded the ball, but Hanover’s Donte Haynesworth got his hand on it, knocked it out of bounds, killing five crucial seconds off the clock. The Raiders inbounded again from mid-court, and Mac Gray raced to the baseline. His three-point prayer just before the buzzer went long and the Hawks survived.
The Raiders swung the pendulum at Lee-Davis Tuesday, rocketing to a 22-12 lead after a period on Senior Night for the Confederates. Lee-Davis overcame their usual slow start and slowed the game’s pace much more to their liking. The Raiders scored only 21 points in the next two periods, holding a 43-37 edge into the final stanza. Ladarein Autry knocked down two threes down the stretch of the third to put the Confederates in position to wrestle the lead away. With 2:38 to go, two free throws finally gave Lee-Davis the lead at 51-49. Winters answered with a three for Atlee, then Autry found Austin Rice in the paint for a layup and it was 53-52. The teams traded baskets again, then Winters went to the line with 25 seconds left down one. He made one of two for the 55-55 tie. Lee-Davis had two shots at victory in the final seconds, but both fell short, and the contest went to overtime.
Mac Gray opened play with a critical basket to set the pace for Atlee, who wouldn’t give up the lead again. The Raiders extended the lead to four in the final minute, but Tariq Caldwell nailed a three with 11 seconds left to draw Lee-Davis to within 63-62. Winters was fouled on the inbounds pass, and he missed both free throws. Lee-Davis called timeout and set up the final play. They had five seconds left to inbound the ball, drive the length of the court, and get off a shot.
The play call worked to perfection, as point guard Josh Brown took the ball right down the court and launched a baseline runner from 10 feet just before the buzzer. It hit the rim, falling short, and Atlee escaped The Asylum with the win.
“I just tried to stay calm throughout the game and stay patient,” said Gray, who scored 15 in the victory. “We weren’t worried about overtime. We actually were happy about playing another four minutes.”
“He [Gray] kept hitting big buckets throughout the game,” said Atlee head coach Phil Reynolds. “He’s got a really good mid-range game. With his volleyball experience, he just elevates and jumps over people.”
Gray’s contribution was critical in light of Lee-Davis’ ability to keep Raiders leading scorer Brian Miller to only eight points.
Both of Atlee’s district wins have come against Lee-Davis. The Raiders are 2-10 in Capital play, 4-15 overall, and finish the regular season Friday at Highland Springs. The Confederates are 0-12 in the Capital, 4-15 overall under first-year head coach Rob Rice, a season filled with opportunity and frustration in easily the toughest district in Central Virginia and one of the best in the state.
“Lee-Davis has a great fan base, and I told Coach Rice he came into the district at a rough time. Those kids have played really well,” Reynolds said.
For Hanover, though, the going was rough after the Atlee win, playing four more games in the next five days due to snow makeups, losing all of them. After home losses Friday and Saturday to the district’s top teams Henrico and Armstrong, Hanover went to Glen Allen Monday night, but couldn’t duplicate their win over the Jaguars from December, falling 70-58. Tuesday night at Highland Springs, the Springers rolled over the Hawks 95-50.
Chris Gilliam was lost to a foot injury for the stretch, and, in the second half against Glen Allen, the Hawks seemed tired, leaving shots short. They were also outrebounded 43-20. But head coach Darren Thornton thought the issue was more mental than physical.
“I think it was more frustration than our freshness. I think it was more us upset about us missing free throws and being down. We knew this [Glen Allen] was a game that we really wanted to have,” Thornton noted.
The Hawks, 4-8 in the Capital and 9-8 overall, finish the regular season Friday at Varina, then look to the Capital District Tournament beginning Tuesday as their chance for redemption.